In January 2018 we began a 9-month journey to research, design and launch an eco-friendly range of disposable nappies and wipes.
Our founder Laura spent months researching materials, nappy moulds and manufacturing technologies to see just how hard it would be to design a nappy that was soft, absorbent and well fitting, whilst reducing the impact on our planet.
Why? Laura had tried every nappy available. She discovered that most nappies contain polypropylene and polyethylene i.e. plastics and that they are typically made using petrochemicals, crude oil, chlorine and alcohol. Used nappies are then predominantly sent to landfill.
Every year 3 billion nappies go to landfill in the UK, that’s 8 million nappies every single day.
Laura had tried cloth nappies and like many parents, particularly those who are working, it wasn’t something she felt she could manage. As a mum, Laura found that many of the eco brands available either felt too papery, they weren’t absorbent enough and often they didn’t fit her babies well enough to keep everything in. She also found that some of the eco brands weren’t actually as kind to the environment as they might have customers believe.
I discovered so many switches could be made in both the materials and the manufacturing process.
Moso bamboo is the core material we use for our nappies and wipes and it has an incredible number of benefits. It’s the only woody crop that can grow at a rate that can keep up with the rate of human consumption. It doesn’t need fertilisers or pesticides, making it both natural and sustainable. Bamboo doesn’t need the false irrigation that cotton demands, again another win for the planet. It is also incredibly soft as a material, it is highly absorbent, naturally anti-bacterial, breathable and temperature regulating.
Laura designed a disposable nappy that was not only 80% biodegradable but one that stands up to scrutiny throughout the supply chain, from the materials we source, right through to the manufacturing process and the packaging we choose.
This summer we discovered a new corn starch material for our wrapping which, whilst it feels similar to plastic, is 100% compostable, it can go into food waste which is amazing.
As of this week our nappies will be packaged in a new corn starch wrapping - the research simply doesn’t stop. Our ambition remains to achieve a soft, high performance disposable nappy that is 100% biodegradable, whilst also not damaging our planet, either during manufacture or after the nappy has been used.
Today, there aren’t alternative materials for the small amount of plastic we have kept in the side tabs and the back panel – but we continue to look at new technologies and one day we are sure we will find a solution. Still, 80% biodegradability is no small achievement, and the small amount of plastic we have kept in the design is needed to make sure our nappies fit well and keep everything in!
The end-of-life of a nappy remains a challenge. Disposable nappies can be industrially composted and recycled. There are proven, working solutions that prevent nappies going into landfill - but they are not widely used.
Wales set themselves a target to recycle 70% of waste by 2025 and unlike the rest of the UK they are set to achieve this.
This year 45 million nappies in Wales will be diverted from landfill.
Disposable nappies are collected kerbside and recycled in Ammanford - the technology exists to recycle nappies and Wales has shown that where there is a will, there is a way.
To successfully manage nappy waste, councils must make better choices for the environment. DEFRA need to drive this and learn from what the Welsh government has implemented, they must support, incentivise or put penalties in place so that councils are prevented from taking the cheapest option which is landfill.
Nappies make up approximately 10% of black bin waste, by implementing nappy recycling councils would make giant steps forward in reducing landfill.
So, one year on from launching Mama Bamboo we are asking people to join us in a #NappyRevolution. We want more people to understand the size and scale of the UK's 3 billion disposable nappy problem. Whilst eco nappies will always biodegrade far better than a standard disposable nappy, we must demand that our councils do the right thing for the environment when taking our rubbish away.
What can you do?
We won’t be preachy or judgemental, we simply want parents and grandparents to understand the enormity of the problem. One baby alone will use 5k nappies before they are the age of two.
Pay attention to what your council is doing with your waste and recycling, demand more from them.
Finally, anyone that chooses an eco-friendly nappy for their baby is a hero in our eyes, whether that be washables or other eco nappy brands. So, if you feel passionate about the world our babies are inheriting, we’d love it if you got involved.